Las Vegas Sun

March 25, 2017

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Fire station to open despite dire predictions

Henderson city leaders said it couldn't be done.

Without voter approval of an $850 million public safety tax hike, the Anthem-Del Webb fire station wouldn't open, they said. There wouldn't be enough money to staff it.

That was in the spring, and in the campaign for the June bond issue, former Fire Chief Joe Hill said without the new station it would be "catastrophic."

Henderson City Councilman Jack Clark told senior residents complaining about fixed incomes that he had looked everywhere but couldn't find any more money in the city budget.

Councilman Steve Kirk went so far as to say that if voters turned down the tax hike, Henderson might have to sacrifice its reputation for its award-winning parks to fund public safety.

Despite the dire predictions, the bond failed for the second time in less than a year. Surprising many, the fire station rose from the ashes of the electoral defeat and will open this month.

"At the time we were looking at the worst-case scenario and maybe we didn't make that plain," Henderson City Councilman Andy Hafen said. "We could have mentioned that we were fighting up in the Legislature."

The Legislature turned out to be Henderson's savior. While the bond was losing at the ballot box, city leaders were lobbying in Carson City. Around Election Day, Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, who is also a deputy chief of the Henderson Police Department, and Mayor Jim Gibson successfully ended three months of lobbying up north, bringing home another $4.3 million annually in state revenue for the city.

So by the end of this month, on the strength of that additional funding, officials say, the Anthem-Del Webb fire station should open. If it does, not only will it open despite the dire forecasts of last spring, it will open six months early.

"But if we hadn't gotten that money, we wouldn't be opening the station today," Hafen said. "It could have been pretty bleak."

Developer Del Webb supplied the one-acre site, the building and the single fire truck that for now will operate out of Station 99 -- a value of about $3 million, according to Del Webb spokesman Sean Patrick. The deal was part of a 1997 agreement in which the city annexed Del Webb's 5,000 acres.

Henderson, which is completing its ninth fire station, the fourth built in the past two years, has built fire stations that way since 1988, when the city negotiated the building of Station 94, on Warm Springs Road and Valle Verde Drive, at developer expense.

The city has budgeted $550,000 to staff the station through July and another $1.1 million for the station's first full year of operation. That money will staff the station with four full-time firefighters 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"Station 99 is a strategic piece for the southwest area," said Fire Chief Jim Cavalieri, who oversees a force of 156 front-line firefighters. "This area historically has had the longest response times because of its isolation."

The new station, while on the frontier of Henderson's southwestern growth, sits dead in the center of the Anthem development. It will respond primarily to calls within a 1.5-mile radius. Battalion Chief Ron Hague said Station 99 will also provide backup for other nearby stations.

For now the station will look mostly north, to the roughly 5,000 homes Del Webb has built as part of its country club and several other neighborhoods, including Sun City Anthem, an age-restricted development.

Full build-out of about 12,000 homes is scheduled for 2008 at the earliest. Just 1 percent of the 5,000 acres will be set aside for retail commercial development, so fire officials expect most of the calls for service will be from residents.

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